Fraternities implement policies aimed at increasing party safety

10/07/17 – Medford/Somerville, MA - Jumbos celebrate Homecoming 2017 in the morning at a non-alcoholic party in the backyard of the DTD house, on Oct. 7. (Courtesy Photo Dan Grichvesky)

Several fraternities held their first official parties of the semester the weekend of Sept. 29-30, including Pi Rho Omega and Delta Tau Delta (DTD), both of which were on cease and desist orders last semester and thus were prohibited from holding social events. Fraternity members say they are working with the administration to formulate new party policies in an effort to create a safe environment for students, placing an emphasis on risk management.

These changes follow ongoing criticism of the Greek life system over the past year, with a number of students protesting hazing and sexual misconduct at Tufts fraternities and sororities. In particular, the Panhellenic Council decried misogyny and sexual misconduct at fraternities, and demanded reform, in an op-ed in the Daily last November.

In an effort to reform Greek life at Tufts, administrators have worked closely with all fraternities on campus, and in the case of some such as DTD, Tufts has created “administrative resolutions.” DTD specifically settled on a policy with the school that bans alcohol at social events according to DTD President Jeremy Silver.

Silver said DTD has been working with the university on various issues since fall 2016. The fraternity recently regained access to its house after a stabbing incident forced members to vacate in the summer of 2015.

“We worked with the university cooperatively and transparently toward an administrative resolution…  that included a section on not serving alcohol at social events for the foreseeable future,” Silver, a senior, said. 

Other fraternities on campus, such as Pi Rho Omega and ATO of Massachusetts (ATO), have also worked in collaboration with administrators to implement new policies. Both of these fraternities, in contrast to DTD, are still permitted to serve alcohol at their parties, according to Social Chair of Pi Rho Omega Hans Reuter, Social Chair of ATO Ally Burnstein, Community Outreach Chair of ATO Chris Campbell and Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) Social Development Director Jacob Ruttenberg.

According to DTD Social Chair Kyle Blacklock, risk management is the backbone of fraternity social planning at his fraternity.

“We put a lot of internal emphasis on risk management, and it’s a huge part of how we plan our social events,” Blacklock, a junior, said.

So far this year, ATO, Pi Rho Omega and DTD have all used members of the Risk Management Assistance Team (RMAT), according to Burnstein, Reuter and Silver. RMAT is a group of sober monitors from outside of the fraternity hosting the party to help maintain a safe environment. Silver explained that DTD recently changed its required number of RMAT managers at parties from six to eight.

While ZBT is allowed to serve alcohol at events, according to Ruttenberg, the fraternity is working to earn Training for Intervention ProcedureS (TIPS) bartending certifications, which focus on preventing intoxication, for all of its members who will serve alcohol. Also, Ruttenberg noted that the fraternity is expanding its risk management system by adding three basement monitors during parties and enhancing communication throughout ZBT’s house.

According to Burnstein, a junior, every member of ATO is now Green Dot-certified. Green Dot is a program administered through the Center for Awareness, Resources and Education (CARE) that teaches students about sexual misconduct and bystander intervention. In addition, some fraternities served food at parties over the weekend instead of alcohol, and DTD placed signs on bathroom stalls with names and numbers of people to call if guests felt unsafe.

The vice president of ATO is now interested in adopting a similar bathroom stall poster policy, according to Burnstein.

Evie Bellew, a junior who has participated in protests against Greek life and supports its abolishment, said these reforms will not change the inherently exclusionary nature of fraternities.

“Frats that stop serving alcohol or hold a day-training on rape prevention don’t change the fact that they were founded as sites of exclusion and carry that baggage to this day,” Bellew told the Daily in an electronic message. “Not to mention – fraternity dues go to national organizations and whether or not a frat is a ‘good frat,’ those dues continue to provide benefits to other sects of that frat around the country that still perpetuate explicit exclusion and violence. Dues often go to national organizations that lobby against rape survivors and discriminatory lawsuits as well.”

Luke Murphy, the president of the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC), said he was concerned that a ban on alcohol at parties, such as the one for DTD, would cause students to drink excessively prior to the Greek life events.

“[On the one hand, there is] the idea that there is going to be less risk at the party [of] someone [becoming] too intoxicated [when alcohol is not being served], but there’s also a lot more risk that someone’s going to show up overly intoxicated,” Murphy, a senior, said. 

Murphy added that administrators are aware of this discrepancy. He said the university is working with fraternity chapters to make social events as safe as possible regardless of the challenges.

However, the first weekend of fraternity parties went smoothly, according to Silver.

“As far as this first party went, we were amazed at how safe and non-problematic it was,” Silver said.

Blacklock also listed possible positive effects of the new policy. 

“I think that using this [policy resolution] as a model for future instances … is really a way to change the social scene at Tufts for the better, make things safer, make them more inclusive, and [it] doesn’t put pressure on anyone to get drunk or abuse substances,” Blacklock said.

Reuter, a senior, also expressed interest in Pi Rho Omega hosting more alcohol-free events on campus in order to make Greek life more inclusive.

“A big emphasis should be placed on alcohol-free events,” Reuter said. “The whole point of Greek life is to build community.”

In particular, Murphy mentioned that conversations with administrators around Greek life social events will continue on an ongoing basis, and that policies and restrictions might evolve as the year continues.

Reuter said it’s important that the administration is aware that many members of Greek life want social events to be safe, especially with regards to drinking.

“Regardless of whether or not Greek life is there or not, people are going to try to find ways to socialize and go out and drink,” Reuter said. “I think it’s really important that the administration realizes that we’re with them, not against them.”

In the meantime, DTD says it will continue to abide by the alcohol-free policy outlined in its agreement with the administration.

“You don’t need to serve alcohol at parties to have a good time, and I think last Saturday was an excellent example of that,” Blacklock said.